Jobs for international master’s degree holders, particularly in the US, is a lottery. International students who want to stay on and work in the US for more than a year after graduation are at the mercy of a H1B lottery visa system.
A graduate from a top business school, for example, will need to first find a potential employer who is willing to sponsor him or her, apply for a work visa, and then hope to win the visa lottery.
H1B Visa policy stops recruiters from hiring more international postgraduates
Often, because of the visa conundrum, potential employers are hesitant to sponsor international graduates. A university representative points out that companies invest heavily in talent acquisition, and pursuing an international candidate can be risky because of the visa lottery.
If a candidate fails to get a visa, the company loses time and money. Therefore, only larger companies, with legal and financial resources, rather than smaller companies, plan to hire foreign master’s degree holders who require work-permits/visas.
Participating in the Graduate Management Admission Council’s Corporates Recruitment Survey, some companies pointed out that there were also language barriers, cultural hurdles, the future status of candidates, and security issues in hiring international candidates. (Article updated in August 2019)
Plans for hiring international candidates
|Will hire in 2019
(% of companies)
|Willing to consider hiring
(% of companies)
|No plans to hire
(% of companies)
|Healthcare / Pharma
Note: Energy/Utilities not included due to insufficient sample size.
Source: 2019 Corporate Recruiters Survey, Graduate Management Admission Council
Companies willing to take the H1B sponsorship risk to hire international students
Nonetheless, many companies are ready to take the visa risk in pursuit of their chosen candidates. According to the 2019 Corporates Recruiters Survey Report, 21 percent of employers in the US have specific plans to hire international candidates who require legal documentation such as work permits or H1-B visas, compared with 29 percent in Europe and 19 percent in Asia-Pacific.
Additionally, 27 percent of companies in the US, 42 percent in Europe, and 50 percent in Asia-Pacific are willing to consider (that is, they don’t have specific plans, yet) hiring international candidates who require visas.
Now the bad news: 53 percent of US companies have no plans to hire international candidates; 29 percent of companies in Europe and 31 percent of companies in Asia-Pacific also have no recruitment plans for foreign candidates who require legal documentation, according to the GMAC survey. International hiring is on the rise in Europe and Asia Pacific, as compared to USA, when compared to historic trends.
According to the report, companies across the world, site expense, policies, legal paperwork, visa issues, and the availability of hassle free domestic talent, as the reasons preventing them from looking for overseas candidates. Other factors like language, uncertainties in commitment level of new hires, and delays in documentation also deter corporations from employing perfectly deserving international candidates.
List of industries willing to sponsor H1B visas
What are the sectors with the highest number of companies that plan to hire international candidates? Consulting leads the field, with 34 percent of companies in the sector revealing specific plans to hire candidates who require visas or work permits.
Consulting is followed by technology, finance, and products/services, with 33 and 29 percent, each, of companies in these sectors reporting specific plans to hire candidates who need legal documentation. Manufacturing, though, seems to have taken a downward dive since 2016, when it was among one of highest employing sectors. However, they seem to be willing to consider international hires as compared to their full-on commitments.
Twenty three percent of recruiters in the consulting sector, 29 percent in the healthcare sector, 34 percent in the technology sector, 24 percent in the finance sector, 31 percent in products/services, and 23 percent in the public sector, say their companies are willing to consider hiring international candidates.
However, some disheartening news, again. The Corporates Recruiters Survey Report notes that a good number of companies in all these sectors have no plans to recruit international candidates who require legal documents.
43 percent of consulting companies, a staggering 63 percent of manufacturing and healthcare companies, 34 percent of technology companies, 53 percent of finance companies, 46 percent of products/services companies, and an understandable (being the public sector) 70 percent of government corporations have no plans to recruit candidates who need work-permits/visas.
Unfulfilled dreams for international Masters students in USA
These figures highlight the very real possibility that many international graduates of b-schools won’t be able to live out their dream of working in the US. As a substantial number of companies in Europe and Asia-Pacific are also not considering hiring international master’s holders, foreign students graduating from these schools face the same predicament as their counterparts in the US.
For obvious reasons, b-schools don’t highlight the visa problem to applicants, and its enormity becomes evident only when students graduate and start looking for work. As schools and universities in the US and Europe are admitting more and more international students, the visa problem will only worsen.
An article in an MBA social network website quoted GMAC Research Director Gregg Schoenfeld as saying that in the US and some other regions of the world, companies find it difficult to place international students because of legal requirements such as work permits and visas.
Denial of visa to stay on and work in the US may ruin the plans of many students. Poets and Quants narrates the tribulations of Sudhanshu Shekhar, an Indian student who graduated with top credentials from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and was recruited by a subsidiary of Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Strategy&.
He failed to win an H-1B visa under the controversial lottery scheme, which considers international MBAs on par with foreign mid-level IT workers. Shekhar, who then applied for a Dutch visa to work for Strategy& in Amsterdam, rues that he hasn’t been given an opportunity to contribute to the US economy, which he has learned so much about.
To demystify the US visa rules: Foreign students go there on an F-1 visa, which allows them to work in the country in a related field for a year on an OPT (optional practical training) visa after graduation. Graduates with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) degrees can apply for an extended OPT visa, but not MBAs.(This student shares his OPT H1B experience beyond his Kellogg MBA graduation)
After a year, international graduates must upgrade their visas to H-1B status, which allows foreign nationals to work in specialty fields in the US. In 2015, the maximum limit for H-1B visas was 65,000, with an additional 20,000 visas for candidates with advanced US degrees. The US government received 233,000 applications that year, and 85,000 visas were granted through the visa lottery. So, only about one in three applicants win a visa.
Shekhar cautions international students to go to the US with both eyes open to the possibility that they may not get an H-1B visa. Some of his friends at Harvard Business School and Chicago Booth have also failed to get work visas. Most of them had never even considered the possibility of not getting a visa.
International graduates who are unable to stay on for work are forced to return to their home countries for lower-paying jobs. But, from their schools, they find it difficult to start searching for opportunities in their homeland. The much lower salaries in their own countries make their student loan repayment more burdensome besides throwing their career plans into disarray.
Not only international MBA graduates, post-MBA entrepreneurs, too, are forced to move out of the US to launch their startups. But they find other, more welcoming countries, such as Canada. Apparently, a billboard has been put up on a freeway near Silicon Valley inviting failed H-1B visa applicants to launch a startup in that country. It says: “H-1B problems? PIVOT to Canada”!
All this is obviously at the cost of the US economy and at least some students’ future. Meanwhile, critics of the H-1B visa allege that the visa policy is used to layoff American workers and replace them with lower-cost foreign workers. But is denying visas to meritorious graduates and feisty entrepreneurs helping America?
Resources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7